A Week of The Super Seven in Pictures

I did tempt all of you to return to the blog this week to see if I was going to have some luck with the new lion cubs – from the feature image of the blog, I think that question got answered…but for those familiar with the Super 7, you will gather that I also had luck with a great deal else!  As we ripped another page from our calendars, the chilly mornings made us realise that we really were entering the first of our winter months!  Despite the cool mornings, our daytime temperatures remained warm, and that usually led to some good viewing around the camp dam during the heat of the day.  Even on drives, we were finding that most of the active sightings were taking place later in the morning…that being said, some of the highlights came because we braved the freshness of the winter mornings!

Lion Action

So, where do we begin with this week’s round up?  I guess it would have to be with the lion cubs!  After Steven found them last week, the Sark Breakaway lioness kept the cubs just from our access road for a couple more days.  A second lioness has also got a litter of three cubs in the vicinity, but we have yet to see them ourselves.  I was lucky enough to get a chance to view the 7–8-week-old cubs late one afternoon, but as it was just off our access road, there was a bit more traffic than I would have liked – fortunately, the mother lion could have cared less!  Fortunately, the next morning she had rejoined with the other members of the Sark Breakaways, and brought the cubs deeper into our concession.  I made my way there in a dense mist, and man, was it worth the trip!  It was a treat to watch the tiny cubs interacting with their much larger pride members, and seeing how the poor mom was having to step in to make sure that the older cousins didn’t get too rough with the cubs!  The next day, the lioness had again returned the cubs to a den site under our main access road – clearly an area where she feels very safe.  As for the Sark Breakaways, they started the week by pitching up in the heart of Giraffe Pride territory; we suspect they may have been trailing the same buffalo herd as the Giraffe Pride, and heard the latter in the process of killing a buffalo – despite having more members, without the Hercules male present, the Sark Breakaways with one Vuyela male seemingly easily displaced the larger pride and stole their meal.  After a couple of days of feeding, the pride moved back west.

We also saw 16 members of the Giraffe Pride resting about 1km from their buffalo kill, with a couple of light scratches, but nothing serious.  One young male got trapped at the buffalo kill, but amazingly despite odds of 8-to-1, the Sark Breakaways didn’t push home their numerical advantage and let the young male walk away (three other members had been seen further west that morning, bringing their total to a complete count of 20).  The River Pride spent most of the week to the north of our concession after seemingly more hunting success.  We did see more of the pride (along with four Vuyela males) during the second half of the week, tracking them down on four occasions at the end of the week as they returned to their central territory.  With the four males hanging out with the pride, we heard the least roaring we have for some time now – we only had them roaring close to camp on a couple of occasions, otherwise all the roars we heard were some distance off.  The week ended with three Mayambula lionesses joining a single Birmingham Breakaway male in the south-eastern corner.  I didn’t venture south to see them, but it sounds like these lions had been in a scrap with one another.

Have the Dogs Denned?

The second achievement of the week was catching up with the wild dogs in the east; after another couple of occasions tracking them off our eastern boundary, we were lucky enough to have them hunting in the area when they were found.  They got themselves an impala kill, but this commotion drew in the River Pride and a single Vuyela male who promptly stole the kill and sent the wild dogs running back to the den.  We followed the pack until they crossed back east, confirming our suspicions as to where the den site may be located.  Sadly, run-ins with these lions will likely be common based on where the pack has chosen to den.

The Super Seven

Lastly, the one member needed to complete the Super 7 showed up this week…and I was on drive!  Earlier in the week we had been tracking the single male cheetah in the east after super-fresh tracks were found walking on top of a vehicles tracks that had just driven down the road, but he avoided us.  Cheetah tracks were seen in the west one afternoon, but they came to nothing.  A couple of mornings later, she was found, and I headed west to get a view of a gorgeous female cheetah.  She was not one of the cheetahs we have been seeing so far this year and brings the number of different cheetahs seen in our area over the first half of the year to nine.

Lastly the Leopards

She was not the only spotted cat around, and despite the good lions, we had some fair leopard viewing.  The week started with Ntsongwaan being found wandering outside of his territory; he was eating a scrub hare when they found him, but looking at his condition, he needs a great deal more than a hare!  Another leopard who is not doing well is the usually impressive Xiwumbana male.  Tristan found him resting up a massive Jackalberry tree (one tree I have always dreamed of finding a leopard in) one afternoon, but upon descending, it was clear that he was in trouble, with a severely injured front paw.  The next day Scotch found him with the remains of an impala kill – based on the state of his paw, he likely stole the kill from another leopard, but it provided a much-needed meal for him.  Interestingly, we also saw Nyeleti walking around camp with a slight limp – the last time we saw either of them was when they were mating – perhaps the honeymoon didn’t end so well?  Dzindza female spent a couple of days around the heart of her territory with a duiker kill and posed wonderfully up a perfect Leadwood tree.  We glimpsed another male leopard with a warthog kill, but he was very nervous and didn’t hang around for long.

What the Herbivores Got Up To

It wasn’t just the cats that showed themselves – we had a good week of elephant viewing, with the daily drinks at camp continuing; one herd that has been visiting the camp is extremely relaxed with the game drive vehicles and provided for some wonderful moments as they peacefully passed within feet of the vehicle!  A couple of large breeding herds of buffalo were active in the west, despite the attention of the lions.  One morning we got to see the young Avoca male lion trailing one herd, but as the herd was starting to settle, the lion soon chose to do the same.

A Fabulous flock

It was thus a good week of big game viewing – interestingly, the general game was very quiet at the start of the week, with few zebras and giraffes being seen, but they seemed to make a slight return at the end of the week.  The ostriches hung around, and Scotch even had an incredible sighting of 12 ostriches all dancing around Tortillis Plains one evening!  They sadly disappeared the next day, but it got me wandering if this was maybe one of our long-lost clutches of ostrich chicks from last year?

Well folks, it was a good and busy week – we will keep fingers crossed for more of the same in the coming week, so be sure to check back next Monday to see what we got up to!

Until next time!